Mark Rockeymoore's Learning Story


There is a space, within, accessible to us all. A learning space that arises in experience only when we make the choice to do so. In 1987, when I was a very young man, I joined the Army and went to Basic Training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina and then Advanced Individual Training (AIT), at the signal center at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia. I did well on the Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and chose to train as a Single Channel Radio Operator, which was a combat military occupational specialty (MOS 31C) and that also gave me access to both the GI Bill and the Army College fund. Excelling in that training (Honor Graduate), I was also chosen to learn International Morse code (IMC), which was an additional skill identifier. That course was a month long and consisted of sitting at a desk wearing headphones and armed with a morse code tapper of Vietnam-era vintage, as had been the radio and teletype equipment that I’d trained on for the initial operator’s skillset, I proceeded to embark upon an amazing inner journey.The training regime was relaxed. In the first week, we were responsible for tapping out and being able to interpret 3 groups, repeating what we heard in our headphones. Each group consisted of 5 dits and dashes (didadadittydadadittyda) that represented numbers and letters. The second week, we were responsible for 3 more, and so on, until the final number of groups we had to learn was 10, in order to pass the course and become certified in IMC.The first week was simple enough. Three groups, fine. I was along with everyone else with the class, progressing normally, we made our quota. And then, late in the second week, something happened.Attempts to describe what happened in detail fall short and seem inadequate. To just say it, I progressed from 3 to 12 groups in the space of 15 minutes. The Sergeant, who had been teaching there for 12 years, could not, would not, believe I’d never learned morse code before.I remember the room was dark, our desks side by side and the groups blended together like a song. One moment, I was listening and tapping code, understanding some and having to think to get the meanings of other letters and numbers, engaging in the reminscence and recognition pattern that typifies all rote memorization learning methods. At some point, I entered a mode of reverie, where the dits and dashes were audible as echoes only as my mind blurred the distinction and what had been aural became also graphical and there was an actual, physical bending of mental space as if I’d flexed a previously unknown muscle and switched over to another mode where, suddenly, there appeared a depiction of morse code in a perfect pattern of resonance and harmonics. It was as if I’d entered a hidden space that was infinite in nature, I remember the sensation of openness, impossibily deep within my mind, of texture and depth beyond my current needs available and waiting for input. As I was listening and experiencing this, my fingers moved faster and I instantly knew the code, could see the code, in the center of my mind’s eye, and utilized this precious insight to cement my understanding. Coming out of it, that unknown muscle flexed once again, leaving me drained but utterly clear, excited beyond belief. Watching the Instructor walking over to me with a confused expression was confirmation that something strange had indeed just occured.After that initial jump, I knew Morse code and finally ended up at a speed of 28 groups, the last two weeks of the course being spent practicing and just increasing my speed. The next closest person was 14.I’ve never returned to that space since. I’ve also never been challenged like that, since. But, knowing it exists, having experienced it, is like a tantalizing glimpse into possibility, into the potential of the human mind to access capabilities that normally lie dormant, unused. It is like this for us all, in every situation that leads to learning. Our ability to concentrate and utilize our innate gifts is either challenged or left unused, depending upon our desire. Whether it is in secondary, post-secondary, community-oriented or personal, the choice to learn is always a choice, our minds are often an underutilized resource, subject to distractions that engage our egocentric tendencies to the detriment of our inherent capabilities. A classroom setting can be either helpful or not, but real learning originates and comes always, from within.